Sometimes nothing can make you laugh like a tragedy and nothing can make you sadder than a comedy. When I look at the movies and shows that have hit me the hardest emotionally, almost all of them have been comedies or at least a weaving of comedy and drama. The thing about a drama is that you expect it to tug at your emotional strings. You’re prepared for it. Just like The West Wing gets laughs out of jokes that wouldn’t work as well on a bona fide comedy, sitcoms can smack you with a sudden seriousness because there is a laughter that’s stuck in your throat.

Comic book writer Peter David said the following of his writing (on X-Factor specifically, though it applies to his work on Young Justice and Supergirl):

The humor in the book will arise naturally from character interaction. Also, it will serve to set up the serious moments. Alfred Hitchcock said the best type of laughter from an audience is the type that catches in their throats. So although there will be snappy dialogue and such, be aware that sometimes we’ll be in the midst of what seems like a humorous moment and then, bam, something unexpected happens that leaves the reader going “Whoa. Didn’t see that coming.”

I’m including two examples in this post. The first is a scene from Frasier that I have actually commented before. The first time I saw it I was slightly inebriated, making the funny scenes funnier and the sad scenes sadder. I wanted to yell and throw something at the TV at the close of the episode.

The set-up is thus: When Daphne breaks up with her boyfriend, Niles is about ready to make his move. He holds off for a day at Frasier’s urging and that night Daphne meets a man, Rodney, who could pass for Niles’s twin. The actor for Rodney was amazing in his ability to duplicate Niles’s mannerisms. If Niles had only made his move, he could have caught the woman of his dreams. Niles moves on and meets Adelle, but not long after discovers that Rodney and Adelle have fallen for one another. This scene takes place towards at end, when Niles shows up to tell Daphne about Rodney and Adelle.

The second is from The Drew Carey Show, which I only saw recently. I actually listened to this before I watched it, but I happened to be at lunch at the end of the episode, so I got to see the all-important closing of the episode. After catching the end, I watched the whole episode through when I got home.

The set-up is thus: Several episodes before, Drew met a real estate agent named Nicki and they (eventually) started to date. Though she’s thin when they met, Nicki revealed to Drew early on that she had previously had a weight problem. She gains weight as the series progresses, but Drew doesn’t care and he proposes to her. This episode opens with Drew and Nicki filming a sex video. It forwards to the next morning where Drew informs his parents that “something happened” and he decided that he didn’t want to marry Nicki anymore. In this scene, he’s coming home from the bachelor party.

(note: there are some jokes in the first 40 seconds that you may not understand. They involve Drew’s father finding out about Drew’s cross-dressing brother and his attempting to feign depression to get out of yard work)

Category: Coffeehouse, Theater

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3 Responses to Tears of Pagliacci

  1. logtar says:

    Yea, that Drew Carey episode is hard to watch for sure.

  2. trumwill says:

    Had you seen it before?

    I’m not entirely positive why that episode jumped out at me. I was never a big fan of Nicki and knew that it wasn’t going to work out because I’d seen later episodes, but I think the way it went down in particular affected me. Part of it may be my own struggles with weight. Part of it, I think, is the fact that the moment of the breakdown was recorded. I still have old emails wherein my relationship with Evangeline unravelled (I lost the emails where things started falling apart with Julie). It’s nothing like a video, it’s been several years, and I went on to choose another woman over her, but nonetheless reading it can take me back to a time and place where I was in a great deal of pain. I wonder how long Drew holds on to that tape?

  3. Brandi says:

    That episode of Drew always kind of gets to me. Not so much from Drew’s point of view, but from Nicki’s. I can actually say I’ve been there, and it;s not a nice place to be.

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